James Taylor And Soweto Kinch Among Poetic Masters Of Rhythm And Rhyme At 2017 Limerick Fest

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The Limerick Jazz Festival continues to spring surprises, and to find groups that succeed in impressing several categories of listener. For instance, the young Irish group Booka Brass initially sound like a cross between, say, the Dirty Dozen and a mariachi band. Consisting of four horns, bass (formerly a brass bass), drums and latin percussion, they featured short solos and short tunes – all of them in minor keys! – with no vocals but with musicianly choreography. 

In his element with a 100-strong club audience, organist James Taylor was grimacing like George Galloway, but with a better rhythm-section than George. Opening for Taylor, the locally-based guitar virtuoso Joe O'Callaghan's trio Electric Freeplay sported high-energy McLaughlinisms, but was perhaps more affecting in the slow and spacey 'Moments'. This year's programme by the Dublin City Jazz Orchestra looked intriguing on paper, taking 1917 as its starting point for repertoire. After opening with 'Indiana' (the first pop tune covered by the ODJB), the highpoint was David O'Rourke's 'John McCormack Suite', adapting songs associated with Ireland's answer to Caruso. But missing a couple of key band-members, the DCJO stretched the parameters as far as 'I Got Rhythm' (1930) and 'Sing Sing Sing' (1935), which hardly made up for some unidiomatic vocalists. 

More than living up to expectations, however, was Soweto Kinch. In a late-night trio set (with bassist Nick Jurd and drummer Will Glaser), his engaging personality was matched by both verbal dexterity and fiery musicality. And his afternoon workshop even included an unaccompanied tribute to Johnny Hodges.

– Brian Priestley
– Photos by Salvatore Conte